While in the Twin Cities for a wedding reception, we decided to linger for a few extra days and see the sights. One of those days was filled by exploring Minneapolis’s interconnected lake parks. We loved it. Being that it was Fourth of July weekend, it was incredibly busy. Our plan was to get lunch and rent one of those big quad bikes and ride it around the trails until we couldn’t ride no more. That took about two hours.
First, we stopped off at Minnehaha Regional Park, where the Most Famous Waterfall in Minneapolis is. Minnehaha Falls cascades down, right through the middle of the park, creating the biggest vertical river in the Twin Cities. It’s a fine waterfall, and a nice attraction to the area, but really nothing to write home about. It’s big but not huge.
We got there around lunchtime and lined up for lunch at the Sea Salt Eatery, in the main building just in front of the falls. They serve seafood here, thousands of miles from the sea. And it’s good, fresh food, too. God bless modern transportation networks.
We wrapped up our meal and headed right down to the bike rental place to get our steel steed. As busy as it was, they had plenty available, but had no time for a primer on the rules and regulations. A form was handed to us, with instructions to sign here, and initial here for a waiver to wear helmets. That was it. They pointed to the vast bins of helmets for the kids, and one guy came over and showed us how to release the parking brake. That was all the instruction we had, and, I assumed, all that we needed.
Off we went. For the duration of the trip, I did the great majority of the pedaling. Trish’s steering wheel was fake, so I handled that too. No problem, I had anticipated doing all that anyway. Judah and Shiloh rode in the kids’ seats at the front, and looked about as cute as possible.
We headed right for Minnehaha Creek park, the thin strip of parkland on either side of the creek that winds its way from Minnehaha Regional Park to two lakes a little upstream. There are two wide, paved paths alongside the creek, one for bikes and one for pedestrians. Almost as soon as we had exited Minnehaha Regional Park and began the path down the creek, I noticed that there were no other quad bikes around. I naturally concluded that no one else had the balls we did to make such an arduous journey to Lake Hiawatha and Lake Nokomis. In a sense I was right.
It was a beautiful ride. I envied the homes that fronted the creek park (in the summer). The weather was perfect, and people were out in force enjoying it. One family had even set up for the day on a tiny “beach” next to the creek. The grill was out and the kids were splashing around on floats in the water. They had all the trappings of a quality family get-together.
The ride was beautiful but arduous. Most of the way was relatively flat, which was easy to peddle. But several times we had to deal with what became a significant challenge: a very slight incline. It’s hard to describe the apprehension of seeing an upcoming mild slope, but the difficulty of pedaling a big one-speed quad bike is real. I had to stand on the pedals on several occasions to muscle our way up a barely perceptible hump. I’m sure it looked very undignified to onlookers.
“Uh, Trish, I’m gonna need your help here. There’s a four degree incline dead ahead!”
“Okay.” *starts pedaling*
“Pedal faster! We need to build up momentum!”
“I can’t! Too hard! Slow down babyyyyyyyy!”
*Two old ladies outpace us on foot*
“Whew! We did it.” *pauses in relief at achieving a nine inch increase in altitude*
Still, it was fun. The down slopes added to the fun too, as we careened down mild hills while fumbling with an overly sensitive and brake and trying to steer in a way as to avoid toppling over our very top-heavy vehicle.
We paused once we got to Lake Hiawatha. It was really a gorgeous setting. The grass was lush and the sky had just the right amount of artistically puffy clouds. We rested for a spell at the foot of a fishing pier, where several locals were taking full advantage of the weather to drink beer, relax, and “fish”. I only wish I had had a pole with me.
Trish and Shiloh were wearing matching dresses with bomb pops on them, and Trish was determined to get her long-desired photo op eating the pops while wearing the dresses. And of course this had to be done on July 4th. Anything else is cheating. While resting, we inquired of a local if there were any pops available in the little restaurant at the next lake. She could not confirm if there were or not, but we had to try anyway.
After we took a wrong turn and had to get help pushing the bike over one particularly menacing hill, we rode down towards the closest thing you will find to a beach in Minneapolis. The well groomed sandy embankment next to the lake was packed with people like a rush hour train. Every square millimeter of grassy territory surrounding the beach was also claimed under various family banners.
We found a sliver of grass to claim, and I inquired of the snack stall if they had bomb pops.
Success! Trish’s literally months-long dream came to fruition.
It was about time to head back. We had rented the bike for an hour, and it was now well past an hour, and we still had to cycle back. We headed straight back to the rental place and dropped it off, all excited about our adventure. We regaled the attendant who checked us back in about how far we went. It was at that point that he told us we were not supposed to take the bike out of the park with the falls. Here I thought we were the only ones with the stamina to bring the beast out onto the trails, but it turns out our journey was illicit. Oh well. No one told us beforehand. But the rental guy was super cool about it all. Not only did we take the bike too far, but we kept it out twice as long as we had paid for, on what was probably the busiest day of the year. He didn’t narc on us about how far we went, and didn’t bother to charge us for the extra hour either. Nice.
We were about done with the park, and headed back to our hotel to rest up for seeing the fireworks that night. On our way back to the truck, we happened upon a tree with a sign on it that said FREE FOOD, with a nearby tent set up to serve people, and a charming fellow belting out some karaoke-style Latin tunes to draw in the crowds. We ain’t gonna turn down free food or hot Latin beats.
Turns out it was some Christian group doing outreach. A man handed me a tract in Spanish. They didn’t have English ones, which struck me as odd, since their signs for free food were in English. But never mind. We were handed a plate of chicken, rice, and some kind of corn patties with a spicy green sauce, as well as some kind of spiced cloudy white drink that I loved and Trish did not. I’m sorry, I don’t know Hispanic food that well. I wish I could tell you what they were all called. But it was delicious, and the people were very generous and kind. We hope they made an impact. God speed.
All in all, it was a great day. Just being out together having fun as a family really put us in our element. Throw in some mild adversity, beautiful scenery, popsicles, and two painfully cute kids with their helmets on, and it made for a very memorable day. We would totally steal that bike again for another ride.